The civil service’s biggest union has indicated it is likely to seek a “cost of living” rise of 8-10% for all departmental and agency staff when talks for this year’s pay round with the Cabinet Office commence.
PCS said a pan-Whitehall ballot for industrial action would follow if government's response was not positive. Its target figure emerged ahead of a series of regional consultation events for its 150,000-plus members in departments and executive bodies, which kick off next week and which are designed to feed into talks with employers alongside the FDA, Prospect and Whitehall’s other unions.
While a double-digit rise would be massively ahead of the current Consumer Prices Index inflation measure of 2.2%, union bosses argue that the “cost of living” demand is necessary to offset almost a decade of frozen or severely restricted pay rises.
The PCS also displayed the depth of its anger over government leaders’ decision not to push for better rises for civil servants in 2018, when the much touted end to the public-sector pay freeze largely bypassed civil servants.
Compared with NHS staff, who secured a three-year deal worth 6.5%, and local government workers who secured awards of 4-16% over two years, civil servants saw the 1% pay cap extended to 1.5%.
To make matters worse, documents released to the High Court as part of the unions’ judicial review of the government’s handing of the pay offer revealed that in February, initial proposals by employers for a 2% average rise for civil servants were axed to “manage down expectations”.
The PCS said this week that the revelation was evidence that permanent secretaries and the Cabinet Office had “betrayed their staff on pay” by “secretly agreeing” to limit pay increases.
“Disgracefully they argued our members should get less money for their hard work,” the union said. “This was the shocking revelation from the court case taken by PCS and other civil service unions in October.”
PCS said that as well as the 8-10% cost-of-living increase, the national executive also wanted to see the introduction of a £10 an hour minimum wage nationally, worth £11.55 in London, and a return to national pay bargaining across the UK civil service – ending single-department deals, and “equal pay and coherence of pay and terms and conditions”.
PCS said the consultation on its pay proposals would be open until January 25. A meeting of the national executive will be held early next month to consider the results and take final decisions on the campaign.
“If we do not receive a positive response from the Cabinet Office on our pay demands, the NEC proposes that we hold an industrial action ballot next March,” the union said.
A PCS ballot for strike action in the civil service last July recorded 85.6% in support of industrial action over pay, but fell short of the 50% turnout threshold required by legislation for strike action to be legal.